Sooner or later any avid hiker will want to keep photos from each of their adventures. We are writing this article for best cameras for hiking, since smartphone cameras may be good for some photos but not (yet) for taking great pictures.
Unless, you just keep and browse all your photos in your small screen smartphone, this article is for you who want to gaze at them through your big desktop or laptop screen.
As you -probably- know already, carrying a camera outside while carrying some equipment is not the same as walking in a city. The terrain is usually not flat and some times the weather is unpredictable.
So, when you are about to choose a camera, there are some key factors to keep in mind. Here they are:
Will it take the weather in?
Is it sealed from weather? It would be nice to have someway or labeling that indicates so but there is not. What you want to check is if some specific elements have rubber protection around them. For example the various joints and buttons you see on the camera body. If they are then the risk for moisture or dust entering the lens and camera body is reduced.
The key word here is “reduced”. Even with such protection, taking photos while heaven pours all their water down won’t help.
Usually the point-and-shoot cameras are not weather sealed. When it comes to DSLR’s and the new type of mirrorless cameras, such sealing exists only in some models. So, ask and check first and read reviews.
What is the ideal focal length?
As you know a camera is mainly 2 things. The body and the different lens. Many DSLR or mirrorless cameras come with a basic 18-55mm kit. You won’t get good quality photos with this one. You will need a wide-angle lens for taking in as much as possible or another kit with good quality zoom. Of course, your budget plays a great role in this decision as lens can be really expensive.
Check to find lens that perform well at the wide end. With such you can have a good range of quality photos, that do not simple resemble a smartphone camera.
It is almost a rule that when carrying such a camera, most of your photos won’t be selfies (smartphones are just fine for such). Usually, they will be landscape photos. For such having a lens kit of 16mm to 24mm is a very good choice.
The thing is that lenses is a different case by their own and most people by “a better” lens kit by just checking the difference at the numbers (i.e. 16 to 24) without really knowing the difference.
Our advice is to take some basic photography lessons if you want to raise the bar in your photography. There you will understand what you need.
Total camera weight
The camera body is heavy. Perhaps not so much when you carry it alone, but add a backpack, a few hours of hiking uphill, hot weather, the len(s) and suddenly you have a heavy rock around your neck.
Many, who don’t want to go deep into high quality photography, choose point-and-shoot cameras, which usually are lighter. The thing with such is that you can’t change lens.
When you want to carry an additional 2 to 3 lens kits with you then mirrorless are usually bit heavier from point-and-shoot ones.
The heaviest of all are DSLR’s. If you choose to additionally carry a variety of lens then you may end up carrying another 4-5 Kgr, plus your standard hiking gear.
So, let’s say that you have that budget to spend it on a variety of lenses. What do you bring in a hiking trip?
Do some homework. If someone you trust has done the same route before, ask them on the terrain type and what kind of nature type you will find out there.
For example: Is the route itself mostly through a forest? If so, then long shots and taking shots of landscapes from a distance may not have their opportunity, but you may have excellent ones with close ups.
If you hike to great heights, then landscapes and mountain tops could be visible for great photos.
What the weather type would be ? Sunny? Foggy? Cloudy? Do you expect to encounter any animals? i.e. Deer, Foxes, etc.
Depending on the weather you may end up with a great set of black and white photos.
Easy to draw
Choose a camera that you can use relatively fast. Some photo opportunities may come and go fast. If you are not hiking alone but as a group, then it won’t be the best thing to make everyone stop, every single time you want to take a picture.
Somehow you need to strap them on you in way that you just reach, focus and shoot. Some guys I know (that are professional photographers though) carry 3 full camera bodies with their different lenses on them.
They look rather “tactical” and they usually do such when in easy hiking trips, but not in demanding ones.
Choose what fits you best.
Let’s say that you have a series of lens kits and at least 1 camera body. You need something to carry them around, through an easy hiking trip that doesn’t require an additional gear backpack.
Again you need to do some homework.
If you plan to take shots of live or still things from a distance (due to terrain or to possible dangerous animals activity) then by definition you will carry a set of long lenses. Maybe 400mm to 500mm. These are big, heavy and you will need a tripod along or something close to that, too.
There, camera backpacks especially made for hiking are the ones you need. As for any backpack check for ones that are as adjustable as possible.
If you plan to shoot adventure sports such as climbing, skiing and mountain biking then you may have to stand in positions and locations that could be hard to reach. Apart from the equipment you will need to get there (ropes, skis ice axes), you will need the tools to support your photography gear.
Your camera backpack should be waterproof and has all that space for your outdoors and photo gear.
Some times you may need not to carry your photography gear around. When this is needed, choose a backpack where the camera chamber is detached from the rest of the backpack.
If you plan to travel by plane then you definitely want to carry your photography gear with you. So look for a backpack that can fit in the carry-on department.
There are many options for different backpacks. Just plan ahead, finding out what you want to shoot when you are at your destination.
There are lots of options out there to choose from the best cameras for hiking.
You may end up with more than one. Many times photographers use a point-and-shoot for close up photos and another one for distant or more high quality ones.
Tell us if you have some specific preference.
2 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Cameras for Hiking”
It’s easy to believe that cameras will be durable against the elements, but you can really do a lot of damage with just a little moisture or dust. Great guide!
True! Thank you for your feedback.